What Being a Young Sydney Catholic Taught Me about Mission.
Today’s guest post is by my friend, Luke Streher. Luke works at Cradio (Catholic Radio) in Sydney and is a lay-member of the Immaculata Order. I asked Luke if he would write about his experience as young Catholic in Sydney, and this was his response.
A man, sitting at a desk before the glow of an iMac, surrounded by the white soundproof walls of a North Sydney office block.
This is not the scene most people imagine when picturing the work of evangelisation. But for me, this is part my mission. I am the Production and Communications Officer at Cradio Limited, a Catholic podcasting and online radio service based in Sydney. Most of my job simply consists of sitting on a computer and editing audio files, then posting those audio files on our website - with a bit of creative design and promotion in between.
Indeed, it can be easy to look past the missionary aspect of what might look like a regular office job. Yet the Lord has continued to surprise me with how this work has brought others closer to Himself and His Church.
Now, on reflecting upon my experience in these areas, the consistent lesson that I have learned from these three areas in this: That we are called to be channels of God’s grace to others. Through our lives, we are called to be missionaries in the world and bearers of His grace.
In this article, I will reflect on three different experiences I’ve had as part of Cradio, the young Sydney Catholic scene, and the pro-life movement in Sydney. From each of these, I’ve learned something different yet equally valuable on how we are called to mission through being channels of God’s grace:
- That it is His work
- That we cannot keep it to ourselves
- and that we must be willing to step out.
Firstly, let’s return to my work at Cradio. Time and time again, I am humbled by an email or a conversation about how someone, somewhere, somehow, discovers Cradio and finds it becoming an important part of their faith - or even their conversion. It might seem obvious that a website devoted to evangelisation would have that result - yet it surprises me every time. Browsing over website statistics might boost morale every now and again, but hearing real life stories about Cradio being a small part of someone’s conversion simply floors me. Really, I helped do that?
Which brings me to my first lesson: Mission is His work. As channels of His grace, God is the source and the director - we are simply the medium by which He works.
Now, don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying that we are simply puppets or automatons - we have been given free will. But this is precisely the point, God has given us the power to co-operate with His grace, it is up to us to choose to do so.
But isn’t this a daunting prospect? Yes! But it is God’s work. We must pray. We must be obedient to our appropriate superiors. We must be faithful to His teaching. But in the end we must also surrender. I might be tempted in my work to only focus on the content that gets “hits” or generates the most “likes” - but sometimes God will touch lives through something that runs counter to my human thinking. And it is always a pleasant surprise when He does.
For the second lesson I have learned, I turn to my experience as a young Catholic in Sydney. Let me say, World Youth Day has done some wonderful things for the Church in Sydney. There is now a thriving Catholic youth scene in Sydney, epitomised by a strong contingent of theology and philosophy students, young people in confession lines, and a packed out pub at every installment of Theology on Tap. Indeed, we are very blessed to have such a vibrant community of like-minded young Catholics.
Yet I have noticed that such a community always runs the risk of becoming insular and self-referential - focusing only on the cohesion of the community and not looking outward to the world around them. Thus, my second lesson: In mission we cannot keep it to ourselves.
Christianity is not a religion that remains only personal, and nor is God’s grace something that we only benefit from ourselves. When we look at the beginning of the Church, what do we see? We see Our Lord’s commission to go and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19; c.f. Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8). We see St Peter addressing the crowd after receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14-41). We see St Paul turning to preach the Good News to the Gentiles (Acts 13:44-52).
Thus, when we act as channels for God’s grace, we cannot block that grace and let it remain within us. That is not why we received it. Rather, we are called to let it flow out to others, for it is in this that we truly participate in God’s work. You never know whose life might change because of the grace you have received.
Finally, my recent work within the pro-life community in Sydney. Praying outside an abortion clinic just outside the Sydney CBD is, in a word, terrifying. And that’s during a 40 Days for Life campaign with multiple fellow Catholics. Of course, a passer-by mouthing-off at you for an expression of your faith is very small suffering compared to our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world. But for a first-world country with indifference embedded in its culture, it is a suffering that can be very easily avoided - and it is certainly tempting to do so.
But this highlights the third lesson: In mission we must be willing to step out. Unlike sitting in a recording studio, sometimes being a channel of God’s grace requires us to be uncomfortable – even embarrassed. It calls us out of ourselves and what we would prefer into what will make us holy and what will bring Him to others.
This stepping out is often very difficult. It might not involve praying outside an abortion clinic or doing street evangelisation, but it could involve reaching out to that person who others find frustrating, or saying sorry at the expense of your ego, or refusing to participate in sin when your friends are egging you on. Perhaps your witness, even if its effects remain unseen, might just bring someone to the Lord.
It is interesting to note that each of these lessons has been a painful process for me. It is not easy to surrender to the Lord’s work, nor is it easy to reach out to others, and it is definitely not easy to step out of my comfortable little bubble of non-embarrassment. But it is absolutely worth it.
My experience as a young Catholic in Sydney has been wonderful; it has given me so many blessings. But one of the greatest blessings - and one I am frequently humbled by - is how the Lord continually uses me as a channel of His grace.
If you’ve never visited the Cradio website, I encourage you to do so: there are podcasts and interviews on all sorts of topics from chastity to Scripture to the Catholic response to the prosperity gospel. Put some contemporary Catholicism into your day and check out Cradio!